Posts Tagged ‘World War II’


Entrance to Auschwitz concentration camp, August 2008

The Atlantic just published my story about Witold Pilecki, a member of the Polish resistance during World War II who volunteered for an assignment inside Auschwitz. Check it out.

Also, I would highly recommend buying a copy of The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery, an English translation of Pilecki’s report about his time in the camp.

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Today marks the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Here is CBS’s radio broadcast announcing news of the attack.

Here is video of FDR’s famous “day of infamy” speech:

The National Archives has put together this blog post and a video about its Pearl Harbor-related documents and records:

A bit of sad news on this anniversary… According to the New York Times, the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association will disband at the end of the year, faced with the realities of the passage of time and the dwindling health and numbers of its members.

And finally, to end the post on a humorous note, leave it to the fine folks at The Onion: “Kamikaze Swimmers Finally Reach Pearl Harbor.”

Holocaust revisionist denier Bishop Richard Williamson has worn out his welcome in Argentina.

Argentina has thrown out Holocaust-denying British bishop Richard Williamson, saying he must leave the country in 10 days.

The Interior Ministry said last night Williamson had failed to declare his true job as director of a seminary on immigration forms and because his comments on the Holocaust “profoundly insult Argentine society, the Jewish community and all of humanity by denying an historic truth”.

Williamson’s views created an uproar last month when Pope Benedict XVI lifted his excommunication and that of three other bishops consecrated by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre as part of a process meant to heal a rift with ultra-conservatives.

The flap led the Vatican to demand that the clergyman recant before he could be admitted as a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church. It also prompted the Society of St Pius X, founded by Lefebvre, to dismiss Williamson as director of the La Reja seminary in Argentina and to distance itself from his views.

The Vatican had no comment on the Argentine action.

Although Williamson has been in Argentina since 2003, the government’s secretary for religious affairs, Guillermo Oliveri, said immigration officials only realised he had made an undeclared change of jobs when the controversy hit the press.

But Mr Oliveri made clear the Holocaust uproar played a key part.

“I absolutely agree with the expulsion of a man residing in our country following his statements (denying) one of the greatest human tragedies,” he said.

It was not clear when or where Williamson would go. A person who answered the phone at the Society of St Pius X said Williamson was still in the country, then hung up.

I find it interesting that the Argentinian government used the immigration excuse to kick him out of the country. Even if he hadn’t included inaccurate information on his papers, I’m sure they would have found some loophole to throw him out. It’s worth keeping in mind that the people and government of Argentina are extremely sensitive when it comes to the Nazis, World War II, the Holocaust and antisemitism.

Several Nazi collaborators and war criminals, including Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele, fled to Argentina after the war, often with the blessings of Argentinian president Juan Peron.

More recently, there were two terrorist attacks on Jewish facilities in Buenos Aires: the Israeli embassy in 1992 and a Jewish community center in 1994.

The global uproar over Williamson’s comments show just how raw and heated emotions are about the Holocaust more than 60 years later. I find it astonishing that an educated man like him could genuinely believe discredited theories to whitewash what really happened. Whether or not he will recant and change his views is entirely up to him, but until he does no church, seminary, school, or organization will want anything to do with him.

The New York Times and ZDF teamed up to find out the fate of the man who was the most wanted escaped Nazi war criminal. Sadly, he successfully eluded justice and died a free man in Egypt. The article does a good job in tracing his steps since he fled Germany and describing his life as a fugitive for three decades. I’d like to think there’s a special spot in hell reserved for people like him, and that his atrocities catch up to him in the end.

On a related note, if you want an amazing story – albeit fictitious – about hunting Nazi fugitives, I highly recommend Daniel Silva’s “A Death in Vienna.”

Every once in a while, I come across a story that is so extraordinary and breathtaking in how people individually or collectively manage to create their own realities, despite what historical evidence shows to be true.

(CNN) — A state-run Chinese newspaper expressed relief Monday that senior Japanese officials had dismissed the country’s air force chief after he denied Japan’s aggression before and during World War II.

Gen. Toshio Tamogami lost his job as chief of staff for Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force, the Ministry of Defense said, after saying in an essay that “it is certainly a false accusation to say that our country was an aggressor nation.”

Japanese troops invaded China in 1937 and were widely accused of gross human rights abuses, including raping tens of thousands of girls and women and killing several hundred thousand others in what has come to be called “The Rape of Nanking.” Imperial Japan also invaded several other Asian nations, leading to the death and misery for an untold number.

Two former Japanese prime ministers have apologized for Japanese aggression before and during World War II. Yet China has long accused of elements within Japan of trying to whitewash the Japanese atrocities committed before and during World War II.

“The denial of the aggression history by Toshio Tamogami comes in as an element of disharmony,” the state-run China Daily said a commentary Monday. “Yet, as long as the Japanese government has a right attitude to this question, the smooth development of ties between the two neighbors will not be derailed by such discordant notes.”

Tamogami’s essay, published late last week, also stirred controversy in South Korea.

Japan controlled Korea from 1910 to 1945. Its military is accused of forcing roughly 200,000 women, mainly from Korea and China, to serve as sex slaves — they were known euphemistically as “comfort women” — for soldiers in the Imperial Army.

I did a story related to this, about a series of movies being produced about the Japanese occupation of Nanking, when I was working in Hong Kong. What struck me most was how raw the emotions were in both countries 70 years later. The Chinese have their own issues with revisionist history, but the factual merits of the argument are clearly on their side when it comes to Nanking.

I don’t know what is more stunning – a Japanese senior military official denying his country’s role as aggressor during the war, or that somebody gave his historical analysis enough credibility to award it first prize in an essay competition called “True Perspective of Modern and Contemporary History.”